There is no fall sports team at Emory that has been as consistently successful as the women’s volleyball team. This year was no exception as Head Coach Jenny McDowell’s Eagles squad tied a school record for wins in a season with 36. One season after making it to the Division III national championship, Emory fell in a disappointing fashion to the No.6-ranked Christopher Newport University in the D-III Regional Final.
The loss marked the end of an impressive four-year run by the team’s senior class. Emory is 141-22 over the last four years. This record is highlighted by two University Athletic Association (UAA) titles, a national championship in 2008, and a national championship runner-up finish in 2010. The class is highlighted by all-Americans Amelia McCall and Natalie Schonefeld and former all-American Jessica McAlvany. The class is rounded out by veteran contributors Kelsey Freeman and Alexandra Wright.
The senior class has had the opportunity to grow under McDowell’s tutelage.
“Over the last four years, I’ve learned the importance of relationships and spending quality time with the teammates and people you connect with,” Schonefeld said. “As a freshmen, I thought it was all about the sport.”
Outside hitter McCall is one of the most decorated players in Emory volleyball history. A three-time all-American, she ranks first all-time in school history with 4,090 attack attempts and fourth all-time with 1,534 kills. Last season, McCall became the second player in Emory history to be named the AVCA D-III
Player of the Year. McCall was a redshirt senior this season after sitting out the 2007 season with a knee injury. She graduated after the fall 2011 semester with a degree in economics.
Schonefeld is a setter from Riviera, Texas and was the only Eagles senior to be named a first-team all-American this season. She was awarded all-American honors in all four years of her career. In 2008 she became the fifth player in school history to be named the UAA rookie of the year.
“I would have to attribute my success over the last four years to my father, first and foremost, my coaches and my teammates,” Schonefeld said. “My dad supplied me with the stability and focus I needed over the last four years. My coaches gave me the necessary confidence and skill set to be successful, and my teammates kept my passion for the game alive.”
Schonefeld majored in business. After graduation she plans on moving to Kansas City, Mo. where she will be close to her family and work for her father’s construction company, Omni Builders. She is leaving behind a strong Emory legacy.
“My greatest volleyball memory was going to eat at my coach’s mom’s house in Pennsylvania my freshman year,” Schonefeld said. “Her mom was the greatest supporter of the team, and every time I saw her she would make me smile. It was by far one of my happiest moments over the last four years.”
Outside hitter McAlvany is a local product from Roswell, Ga. She ranks 10th in Emory history in career attack attempts and was awarded all-American honors during her sophomore and junior seasons.
Right side hitter Freeman and middle hitter Wright make up the rest of the Eagles’ senior class. An anthropology and human biology major, Freeman played in 48 matches over the course of her career. This season, she notched a career-high 11 kills against Martin Methodist College (Tenn.). She hails from Orinda, Calif. Wright is a two time all-UAA honoree from Matteson, Ill. She ranks eighth in Emory history in total blocks with 303 and ninth in block assists with 232.
Wright was a major contributor to Emory’s 2008 national championship. She was named to the NCAA Championship all-tournament team.
The five Eagle seniors leave behind a legacy which includes a national championship and a runner-up finish. If there was any doubt about Emory volleyball dominance four years ago, this class has put it to rest. Emory has established itself as a volleyball powerhouse for years to come.
— Contact Nathaniel Ludewig